Take off in style

by Isabella Lee

Shirley Au Yeung (left), manager cabin crew, inflight services department
Shirley Wong, learning and development executive, inflight services training and development
Cathay Pacific Airways Limited
Photo: Nolly Leung

Leading international airline offers 1,500 enthusiastic and service-oriented protessionals myriad opportunities for growth

With a global workforce already exceeding 17,000, Cathay Pacific looks to recruit flight attendants whose top priority is to provide the best service possible to ensure passenger safety and comfort at all times.

Cathay Pacific serves more than 119 destinations worldwide, but to meet demand resulting from increasing flight frequencies and destinations, the airline intends to take on an additional 1,500 cabin crew this year.

"We are not just offering a job. We are offering a lifestyle," says Shirley Au Yeung, manager cabin crew, inflight services department, Cathay Pacific Airways Limited.

Since the job involves interaction with people from a wide range of cultures and nationalities on both long-haul and short-haul international flights, Mrs Au Yeung notes that Cathay Pacific regards its flight attendants as ambassadors, safety experts and customer service professionals —a specific role that requires full commitment to excellent service.

Essential qualities

Cathay Pacific seeks people with excellent communication and interpersonal skills, a warm and pleasant personality, confidence, maturity and empathy in dealing with people from different backgrounds. In return, flight attendants receive flexible benefits packages, including medical insurance, discounted travel, special offers and exciting recreational opportunities, Mrs Au Yeung points out.

"During the recruitment process, which incorporates group interaction sessions and one-to-one interviews, our main focus is to find out whether the candidates have the right attitude. This is even more important than the service skills that they will acquire through the training we provide," she notes.

In order to be familiarised with all aircraft technical and safety procedures, newly recruited flight attendants immediately embark on an intensive five-week training programme. Practical sessions take place in a simulated aircraft environment where each team of new recruits must perform numerous routine technical and safety procedures.

"Air safety and security training takes up 12 days of the induction programme. In this time, new recruits undergo classroom training and drills equipping them with the necessary knowledge and practical know-how to deal with both routine and emergency situations. These include the handling of dangerous goods, operation of aircraft doors and evacuation procedures in case of an emergency," says Shirley Wong, a learning and development executive in the airline's inflight services training and development department.

Ms Wong adds that prospective flight attendants can also take advantage of pre-employment training courses, including modules on grooming and language skills.

Clear sky

After fulfilling all the training requirements, flight attendants start working in the economy class cabin. As they gain more experience, they may move up to serve in business class and, eventually, first class. Their performance is reflected in a structured career progression path, starting from flight attendant and progressing to flight purser, senior purser and inflight services manager.

Flight attendants who join the team must learn to think on their feet and be sensitive to the needs of others. "Knowledgeable and proactive cabin crew will be able to anticipate and solve problems on the plane, an environment that always has limited resources once airborne. Whether a crisis can be resolved relies heavily on skilled and trained people," Ms Wong says.

In turn, the demands of the job and the multicultural working environment will contribute significantly to their personal growth, stresses Mrs Au Yeung.

"Apart from promotion, cabin crew members also have opportunities to move horizontally between different job functions across the company. This in essence, depends on the individual's enthusiasm and attitude towards learning," she says.

To facilitate learning for all staff, the company has set up a range of channels, from a traditional library service to the latest technological tools such as an e-learning portal. "Training for cabin crew is not limited to aviation subjects. We want our people to be exposed to a wider range of capabilities and therefore offer training to improve job-related skills, for example, through management skills workshops and language courses. We also give our people the opportunity to explore different interests such as culinary arts and wine appreciation," Mrs Au Yeung adds.


Taken from Career Times 04 July 2008, p. C5
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